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November 9, 2017

Go, Read: Massive Buzzfeed Article About DC Editor Eddie Berganza’s Multiple Harassment Incidents

Here. It's a fairly thorough piece of its type, which will always have certain limitations in terms of who chooses to participate and not. I believe every story in here. I support any motivation involved in people telling their own story or corroborating one. It's brave. I hope it leads to greater peace for those that have been wronged.

There's nothing in the story that hasn't been talked about in the past pretty openly in comics circles. There are two story points missing, or at least I'm not seeing (please correct me). One is whether or not DC has promoted or demoted Berganza with these claims as part of their reason for doing so. Two is whether or not there's ever been a company directive that Berganza not work with women directly, which would have some potential right-to-work fallout. (I am pretty certain there's at least one female editor in his office now.) Other than that, it seems all there.

From what I remember talking to DC people the last time Berganza's name came up as an example of open and obvious boys' club comics industry reality, they defer to the fact DC has worked with Time Warner to follow what their parent company does when confronted with reports like that. I believe this also colors elements of their response when confronted with the issues since. I suspect that in some ways, this is genuine, and that they may have been let down by that policy in a broad sense: policies at big companies aren't designed for a just outcome but one that is the least damaging to the big company.

In addition, as far as I know, there have been no reports of further transgressions by Berganza since the last gabbed-about incident in 2012. I can therefore imagine someone working up an argument that this represents a win for that policy, this way of handling things. I disagree. The cost as implemented is much too high in human suffering, in dream deferred. Even if you feel you're stuck with a certain policy, you can't point to such a thing as an optimal outcome. I disagree with the idea that any company is somehow absolved of suspicion, doubt or criticism if they accept the legal minimum response. Any reasonable high standard in place office-wide or in this case when the incidents began seems to me would have triggered a firing after the 2012 incident. I have no real confidence additional incidents from Berganza or a parallel series of incidents would be treated radically differently were they to begin six months from now. I hope I can one day be convinced to change my mind.

I also suspect this is one of those narratives where the sex part of the idea of sexual harassment confuses things. Had Berganza been walking around suddenly sucker punching people, cracking them right across the jaw, and was known as a guy who would make comments in the office about wanting to beat people's ass or put a mark on them, much of this would be way more easily seen as intolerable behavior.

The most interesting part of the article to me is a scenario where Berganza and a victim couldn't work together so the victim was left to opt out. This suggests that Eddie Berganza's skill-set has been valued in a way that prioritized him being able to perform, or that his perspective has been privileged simply because he's a man or a friend of those who had the opportunity to find better solutions. Both possibilities are disheartening.

I will additionally admit to suspicion of claims, even just implied, that this has been seriously dealt with in a house-cleaning way, or an effectively proactive way, within an office that had such an opportunity to do so when it changed coasts. I hope there is something done now, and I will be happy to trumpet those efforts if laid out for me.

In the end, if we as an industry and community are not constantly straining at the maximum way to best protect all people with whom we work, what are we even doing?
posted 9:55 pm PST | Permalink

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